Historic Backcountry Cabins

Fox Creek Cabin
Fox Creek Patrol Cabin
The U.S. Army constructed backcountry cabins and snowshoe cabins to provide facilities for troops patrolling for poachers. Typically these were about 16 miles apart-a day's travel. The four backcountry cabins surviving from this period are still used by the National Park Service for backcountry patrols (visitor safety, law enforcement, poaching), to temporarily house researchers, and as visitor contract stations. Located in remote parts of the park that are accessible only by foot and horseback, these cabins serve as welcome refuges for crews where they can rest and get out of the cold, rain, and snow.

Each cabin is rectangular in the "Rocky Mountain" style which is exemplified by the entrance and covered porch with a gable end. This contrasts with eastern and midwestern log cabins where the entrance is often found on a side wall and the covered entry porch incorporates a shallower pitched shed roof. The roofs are cedar shingles, but were originally sod. Foundations (floors) were originally dirt, but have been replaced with concrete. Doors are on the south side. The cabins rest on concrete foundations with the sill logs directly on the foundation.
Backcountry cabin
Each cabin is on the edge of a relatively flat, irregularly-shaped meadow. Vegetation in the meadow area consists of thick bunchgrasses with a predominance of Idaho fescue. Outside the meadow, the canopy is lodgepole pine, with some Englemann spruce and subalpine fir.

Cabins are one or two rooms incorporating sleeping, cooking and work areas. Interiors are simple. Cabins have both wood heat and cooking stoves. Interior furnishings are typically sparse and include bunk beds, bookcases, table, and may have desks.

Thorofare Patrol Cabin

Built in 1915, the Thorofare patrol cabin is 27.8 feet (L), 15.5 feet (W), and 12.5 feet (H) and consists of two rooms. The saddle notched log walls consist of logs that measure 10-12 inches in diameter at the butt. The gaps between the logs have mortar and lodgepole dowel chinking on the exterior. The roof extends out ten feet to form a covered porch with a wood deck and support posts at each corner. The gable ends are a continuation of the log walls from below and are trimmed in a descending pattern from sill log to roofline.

Fox Creek Patrol Cabin

Constructed in 1915, the Fox Creek Cabin is one room with an overhanging porch (21.5 feet [L], 15.0 feet [W], and 12.2 feet [H]). The log walls have dovetail notching at the corners. The roof extends out 4.5 feet to form a covered porch with a wood deck. The cabin has been modified by replacing original dirt floor with concrete and the original sod roof with cedar shingles (by the CCC in the 1930s).

Harebell Patrol Cabin

This 1915 cabin is just inside the south boundary of the park. Dimensions are 23.0 feet (L), 16.2 feet (W), and 11.0 feet (H). The walls feature saddle notching. The gable roof extends out four feet to form an overhand. The cement floor has a 3.3 feet x 3.7 feet x 4.3 feet cellar in the south corner. The cellar is used to store canned goods.

Members of the snowshoe cavalry

Buffalo Lake

The men of the "snowshoe cavalry" liked their rough life in the remote recesses of the mountains and often applied freely for detached service. The life was demanding and often isolated, rugged and dangerous, and very different from that most of them had known before. Edwin Kelsey, who served as a soldier in Yellowstone in 1898, later became the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Private Kelsey's letters to his niece describe a difficult but very enjoyable life as a Yellowstone soldier. "December 3, 1898. Left here for the Post [Fort Yellowstone] the Sunday before Thanksgiving...I made 26 miles the first day, staying all night at the Norris [Soldier] Station. The next morning it was 22 degrees below zero, but I pulled out for the Post, which I reached about two p.m. after a cold hard ride of 20 miles." It is not difficult to imagine how important the shelter afforded by the backcountry cabins and snowshoe outposts that the Army constructed was during such outings.

The army built Fort Yellowstone and backcountry outposts during the years they managed the park and these buildings may have the highest integrity of any army post from that period. When you visit Mammoth Hot Springs, park headquarters, be sure to take the Fort Yellowstone Walking Tour which begins at the Albright Visitor Center.


Last updated: May 25, 2023

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